This time in Fortnow’s blog – a long discussion about whether one should reform/abolish conferences as the primary publication venue in computer science. 40+ comments at this moment
His entry and comments are mostly concerned about the situation in complexity theory/TCS. I think one ought to ask the same question about crypto, especially since our field has an over abundance of conferences. The problem is also that the top conferences (Eurocrypt, Crypto, may be Asiacrypt) only accept 30-34 papers yearly, while the number of quality papers is much larger. Moreover, the last 10 or so papers accepted are always somewhat random. Now, when your paper is still good but gets rejected, you have to wait 3 more months for the next top conference, and then 3 more.
On the other hand, you have 20 small conferences, that are almost all equally bad. (Not FSE, TCC, PKC, CT-RSA, FC, CHES, but the rest of them.) Most of them get a tiny share of good papers, since some top researchers do not want to wait for 3 months, or just want to travel. Or for some other not-science-related reason. In general, if you are an established researcher, it does not pay off to sit in the conference room at those conferences since you do not learn anything new so you just do some sight seeing. (If you are lucky, somebody whom you know might also participate!) And being on a PC of such conferences is usually just a pain.
I think there is some room for reform, thus. My own recommendation would be to increase the number of papers, accepted to all IACR conferences and workshops by 50%. (As said, the last 10 are always random* – and the first 10 non-accepted papers are sometimes better.) This would increase the rate crypto results get published quite a lot. This would also mean that less top papers would get accepted to third tier conferences, which would also be good – hopefully the number of third tier conferences would decrease.
Moreover, to compare it with the past, Eurocrypt 1990 got 85 submissions and accepted 42 papers. Eurocrypt 2004 got 206 submissions and accepted 36 papers. With Crypto, corresponding numbers are 43 (of 93) and 33 (211). Thus, while the number of submissions has increased 2.5 times, the number of accepted papers has actually decreased(!). In addition, in 1990 the number of active research groups in cryptography was may be 10 times less than now. This means, that the competition for Crypto/Eurocrypt papers has increased dramatically.
* I’ve actually done some statistics. I might have a separate post on that, but of Crypto 1998 papers, around 10 have been cited less than 30 times. While the top paper, by Cramer and Shoup has been cited 600+ times. Other conferences followed a similar pattern, though not always the top paper has that many citations. OTOH, there are many papers in third tier conferences that have more citations than the mean Crypto/Eurocrypt paper of the same year.